Senator Mathias Cormann – responding to questions by Penny Wong on the topic of Australia moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

photo of Senator Mathias Cormann
October 18, 2018

Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australia’s commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allows Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist side by side within internationally recognised borders.

Full speech

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Leaked messages between Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reveal that Australia’s close friend and neighbour believed Prime Minister Morrison’s decision to overturn longstanding bipartisan foreign policy would ‘slap Indonesia’s face’, ‘be a really big blow’ and ‘affect bilateral relations’. Why is Prime Minister Morrison putting the Liberal Party’s political interests ahead of the national interest?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): That is not what Prime Minister Morrison is doing. Prime Minister Morrison is putting the national interest ahead of anything else. It is quite appropriate for the Australian government, from time to time, to consider the best way forward in relation to an important foreign policy matter. Of course it’s appropriate, and that is what we’re doing. Of course we continue to engage and talk with all of our friends and partners, including and in particular our great friends in Indonesia.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): Can the minister confirm that the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Quinlan, was formally summonsed by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in response to Prime Minister Morrison’s decision to overturn longstanding bipartisan foreign policy?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:01): What I can confirm is that the Australian government continues to engage positively and constructively with all of our friends in Indonesia.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): I ask the minister to take on notice the previous question as to whether the ambassador was summonsed. The leaked exchange between Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Indonesian foreign minister is in stark contrast with Prime Minister Morrison’s claims that the announcement is ‘not an issue of concern’ for Indonesia. Why isn’t Mr Morrison telling Australians the truth about the impact of his decision to overturn longstanding foreign policy five days out from the Wentworth by-election?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann.

Senator Wong: He’s lied. He has lied. He’s told—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, I would ask you to withdraw that personal reflection.

Senator Wong: All right. I withdraw it. He has misled.

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:02): As I’ve indicated before, Australia continues to engage positively and constructively with all our friends around the world, including in particular our friends in Indonesia. Minister Payne and her Indonesian counterpart had a very constructive discussion on Tuesday regarding Australia’s announcement. Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australia’s commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allows Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist side by side within internationally recognised borders. And, of course, Senator Wong is misrepresenting what was announced earlier this week. What was announced earlier this week was a process. Australia, as a sovereign country, is entitled, from time to time, to engage in processes of this kind.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: I note that Senator Payne is not present. I think the Leader of the Government in the Senate missed ministerial arrangements.

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